The Brag Media
News February 14, 2018

Mat Morris: Two of Australia’s most iconic festivals could be without a home

Mat Morris: Two of Australia’s most iconic festivals could be without a home

“If the venue is not approved, then two of Australia’s most iconic and internationally renowned festivals will be without a home.”

The future of Falls Festival and Splendour in the Grass lays in the hands of the public. Friday (Feb 16) marks the final date to send submissions to the Department of Planning and Environment requesting for North Byron Parklands to become a permanent venue for smaller arts, music and community events and also the forever home of Splendour and Falls.

It seems like an easy win, but Parklands is also seeking approval for the development of a $42 million conference centre with capacity for up to 180 attendees and accommodation for up to 120 guests a day.

While all environmental issues have been addressed, and even though the venue would only operate for 20 days of the year, the permanent home of Falls and Splendour is still endangered.

Speaking to TIO, Mat Morris, GM of North Byron Parklands, says that while the positive support so far has “been overwhelming”, if the proposal isn’t approved, the blow to the music industry would negatively impact the creative industries, thousands of people along the industry supply chain, and the tens of thousands of punters. 

Read our full Q&A with Mat Morris below:

Submissions close Friday regarding any changes to Parklands, what’s the feedback been like so far?

The positive support has been overwhelming. Thousands of industry players, artists and punters have all taken the time to strongly voice their support for making North Byron Parklands the permanent home of Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival Byron as well as a number of other smaller cultural arts and music events. It really is incredibly important that people let the state government know just how important the creative industries sector is to the national economy (not to mention the blatantly obvious cultural benefits).

If you could bypass all legislation and go straight to approval without any questions asked, what would the ideal outcome here be?

To fulfil our aim of creating a world class sustainable outdoor cultural arts and music venue. Venues across Australia are disappearing fast. North Byron Parklands is an incredible purpose built, outdoor venue which already boosts some amazing sustainable low impact technologies to harvest water and manage wastewater and the like onsite. The venue would only operate for 20 days of the year (with nearly half of these days reserved for small community based events), meaning that for over 300 days of the year the only activities on site would be the continuation of our habitat restoration program (i.e. planting trees and removing exotic weeds).

The $42 million proposal to create a permanent festival site for up to 50,000 people has received a lot of backlash from the council and Byron locals alike. Why has the festival site been so scrutinised?

To be fair, Parklands has an excellent working relationship with Byron Shire Council and while there is a very small group of people in the Byron community that don’t support the project, the fact is that thousands of locals do strongly support permanent approval. The 50,000 patron capacity only relates to Splendour in the Grass (i.e. 4 days per year) and is proposed to grow in stages from its current level of 35,000 patrons subject to meeting a number of clear performance indicators. Splendour and Falls currently inject more than $100m into the Australian economy with over $25m being spent in the Byron Shire.

Mat Morris, GM of North Byron Parklands

If the development proposal is turned down, what will that mean for both Falls Festival and Splendour in the Grass?

If the venue is not approved, then two of Australia’s most iconic and internationally renowned festivals will be without a home. Splendour in the Grass was born and bred in Byron, and Falls Byron has been a staple offering in this part of the east coast for half a decade. Not providing a permanent home for these two events would be a massive blow to the creative industries and negatively impact thousands of people along the industry supply chain, not to mention the tens of thousands of punters. Such a decision would be a significant blow to the Australian music industry.

Splendour In The Grass

You have over two decades experience in environmental science. Do festivals like Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival have a negative environmental effect on The Shire?

Quite the opposite. When the 660 acre property was purchased back in 2007 (yes it has taken 10 years and we still do not have a permanent approval), it had suffered a long history of intensive agricultural activity, e.g. cattle, cane growing and the usual host of chemicals and fertilisers, not to mention some significant erosion. Since that time, Parklands has planted tens of thousands of trees, installed over 240 composting toilets, removed significant amounts of exotic weeds and to date has only used the site for a total of 8 days per year.

Our extensive fauna and flora monitoring program has shown that more species are now present across the site than when it was first purchased. By being able to camp most of our patrons on site we are able to contain, manage and improve performance in ways that many other venues cannot.

Artists like Dune Rats, Angus & Julia Stone and Methyl Ethyl have all come out in support of keeping Parklands’ legacy. How much weight do those testimonials from the music industry have?

These artists are incredibly passionate ambassadors for the Australian music industry. They have each experienced the magic of playing in the amphitheatre at Parklands and have witnessed the amazing energy generated by our faithful punters.

Artists that stand up for right to play at venues such as Parklands are truly instrumental in galvanising much-needed support for the creative industries in this country. If artists don’t use their voice to support the music industry, then who will?

These awesome Aussie artists have helped inspire music lovers across the country to have their say about important industry issues such as protecting and supporting the continuation of outdoor cultural arts and music venues like Parklands. All power to them…

Make a submission in favour of Parklands remaining a permanent home for music, cultural and community events HERE

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.


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